President, HRU Technical Resources
1. Who was your favourite teacher at school? What did you learn from that person?
Ruth Kemp, high school English teacher. She forced us to journal, and this was in the 1980s! So, each day we had to just write for 20 minutes a day. Write about anything, but you had to write even if you just copied text from a book or magazine. The cool part is she would read everything you wrote and respond with comments. So, even though I didn’t want to write, I loved her reactions to what I wrote! For me, it became a game to try and make her laugh or be shocked. She was smart and playful and always played along with my creativity. She taught me that I actually loved to write, I just didn’t know it. I ended up being her teacher’s aide for my junior and senior years. We would talk for hours about anything and everything.
She retired years ago, but when I wrote my book, The Talent Fix, I wanted to send her a copy because she was really the reason that it happened. I found out, through the school, that she was doing some volunteer work at the local airport assistance desk with some other senior citizens. I fly a lot, so I thought eventually I would run into her. One night on a last flight of the night coming into the airport at almost midnight, I finally ran into her on her very last day of volunteering ever. It had been 30 years since we had seen each other (she totally looked the same!). I walked up to the counter, and she asked me if she could help me. I said, “I’m Tim Sackett!” and she replied, “Of course you are!” We hugged and shared stories, and it brings tears to my eyes as I write this that I could see her one last time and let her know what a dramatic impact she had on my life.
2. At what age did you become an adult? What happened, and how did you know?
I don’t think my wife thinks I’m an adult yet! I tell people I was raised by all women. My Grandmother was the matriarch of our family. She had five daughters, my mother being the oldest. The first grandchild in our family was my sister. I was the second. My parents divorced when I was four, and my grandparents help raise me a lot, being that my Mom was a single parent working a ton launching her business that I currently run. My grandfather passed away when I was twelve. At his funeral, I was sitting between my Mom and my Grandmother. My Grandmother leans over during the service, puts her hand on my knee, and whispers into my ear, “You are the man of the family now.” I’m quite sure I wasn’t an adult at that moment, but it definitely shaped so much of my life moving forward! To this day, I still hold the title as the senior-most “blood” male of our family, and my 90-year-old Grandmother still expects me to be the man of the family.
3. What do you think is true that most people think is false? What do you think is false, that most people think is true?
I think if you fail a lot, you are more likely to keep failing. Our society tends to believe the opposite. Fail more! Fail faster! It’s all bullshit. I coached baseball, and if I had a kid strikeout one hundred times in a row, he was not going to hit the ball at 101! He would have lost all confidence, and he would be beaten down. Failing doesn’t lead to success, typically. Finding little successes, little wins, that add up over time, lead to success. So, I’m going to set this ball on a tee, and you hit from there. Then once you do well with that, I’m going to toss the ball underhand you hit that. Eventually, we’ll make it to where you can hit a ball being pitched at you. More failure leads to more failure in almost every case. Don’t believe the hustle porn! Find ways to be successful.
I think it’s false that you need to love her job. I love my wife. I love my kids. I love my dog. It’s okay if I don’t love my job. I can still be great at it. I can do it for the rest of my life and not love it, and still be successful. Love what really matters in your life. For some people, that might be your job, but I think for most, we use our job/work to allow us to do more of what we love outside of that work world.
4. When was the last time you changed your mind about something really important? What was it, and what led you to change your view?
I used to use slurs while believing I was joking, or that it wasn’t harmful. It’s just a word, and I didn’t mean that way, etc. “Oh, that’s “gay”!” for describing something I didn’t like or didn’t agree with. Until I had someone very close in my life come out as gay, and we discussed how this type of use made them feel less than. That it was a putdown. That I was basically saying, they were less by using words in that manner.
This really shook me to my core because this person, and so many of my gay friends who I care about and love deeply, I realized, finally, what I had allowed to happen from me and around me. I still struggle at calling out others when they use this type of language, but I’m working on it every day, so no other person has to go through that.
5. If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?
Because of my writing and speaking style, I have a tendency to trigger people. To be honest, I just like arguing the opposite side of certain things to prove how ludicrous we get sometimes in arguing certain convictions. The reality is, my user manual would have the top, in bold letters, “Always assume Tim has positive intent!”
I know I sometimes upset some folks, but it’s rarely my intent. I can’t think of a time in years where I went out trying to upset someone. I tend to want to help most people, not upset them. Some folks are just more easily triggered than others.
“Because of my writing and speaking style, I have a tendency to trigger people”
6. What personality trait has got you in the most trouble? What kind of trouble does it get you in?
In uncomfortable situations, I try and lighten the mood for everyone involved by making jokes. For some, this helps, for those in the middle of something they are deeply passionate about, this can seem callous and uncaring about their position. Again, that’s not my intent, but in the heat of a moment, it doesn’t feel that way to them.
7. On what topic would you never make a joke?
I will and probably have joked on any topic. I love humor, and my humor probably goes darker than 99% of folks in the world. I’ve gotten fairly good at finding a core group of close friends that know the difference between humor and reality that I can share that side of myself with. Nothing I love more than a #TooSoon joke.
8. Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?
When I was in college, I thought I was Democrat because I care about so many democratic causes. When I started working, I thought I was Republican because I cared more about the financial aspects of my life, starting a family, etc. What I’ve come to realize is that I’m actually a raging moderate. I care deeply about certain liberal positions, and I care deeply about certain conservative positions. So, truly neither party supports who I am, in America. My hope of all hopes is that we could have the rise of a truly powerful third political party in America for the ‘rest of us’ in the middle.
9. What is the best purchase you’ve made recently? Why?
Oh my god, I have to pick only one!? I’m a shopper. I have more shoes than any man alive should have. I would say the best purchase I’ve made recently are these great shorts by a company called Fair Harbour. The most comfortable shorts I’ve ever had! I love them and bought four pairs!
10. What is your most prized possession? What’s the story behind it?
I’m not really into possessions. I mean, I’ve got a lot of stuff, but I would lend anything I have to a friend tomorrow without question. To me, possessions are just that. When my grandfather died, he had a fishing hat he always wore. Smelled like a mixture of him and his Old Spice cologne. I used to put that hat over my face, and that smell would instantly bring him back to me. Somewhere along the way, I lost the hat. The amount of money I would pay to have that hat back is a small fortune!
11. Which fictional villain do you find yourself sympathising with most? Why?
Okay, this is my Brainfood Tribune, so I’m saying my villain, is more of an Anti-Hero, and it’s Dead Pool! He’s definitely not a superhero, he likes to joke, he likes to make fun of everything, but he’s got a big heart and likes to help people. He doesn’t really want to get involved, but when he does, he mostly makes the right decisions. I love everything about Dead Pool! That first movie should have won an Academy Award, and I’ll argue with anyone about that!
12. If you could invite any three people – living or dead – to your final dinner party before the end of the world, who would they be and why?
I’ve got three sons, and when they were little, all of them at different points asks that one question that all siblings tend to ask Mom and Dad. “Dad, who do you love most?” Now, when they asked my wife that question, “Mom, who do you love the most?” she would always say, “I love you all equally.” When they asked me that question, I would say, “I love your Mom the most. I can make more of you, but I can’t make more of her!” I never changed that answer.
But, if I only had one final dinner party, I would have it with my three sons so I could explain to them how they had to take care of their Mom!
13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received?
I had a CHRO I worked for once ask me, “Tim, do you want them to throw you a going-away party!?” I looked at him puzzled, we were discussing my team’s performance. He was pushing me to understand that it was most important for my career if I pushed my team for great performance and not be the most popular boss they ever had then to be well-liked, but not pushing them to reach higher performance.
He said, “you can be well-liked and they’ll throw you one hell of a going away party when I fire you, or you can make them better, and there will be no going away party!”
14. Can you give an example of a time when you had to learn the lesson the hard way?
The best performance doesn’t always win in large political organizations. I worked for a large organization where each year, they gave out Rolex watches to the top performers in Operations, Marketing, Training, and HR. I was in my second year, and I had the number one scorecard in HR. Not only that so did my partners in operations and training. So, we had the big awards dinner, and people are congratulating me. I watch my partners get called up to the stage and receive their new Rolex watch, and I was next. But my name wasn’t called. The award wasn’t for being number one, specifically. It was an award that each c-suite leader could choose for the best performer in their function. Traditionally, that went to the top scorecard, but this year the CHRO decided he was going to give it to another pro who made great strides in their region but wasn’t close to being the best. This person also had a very close relationship with the CHRO. Had weekly updates with CHRO. They Invited the CHRO out their region to travel with them. I didn’t, I was a bit newer and quite frankly had the best scores, so I rarely engaged the CHRO. There was nothing he was going to show me, I had it taken care of. Turns out, relationships manner in big organizations. I had the most embarrassing evening of my career that night. I was so confident I was the one, but I wasn’t.
15. What hiring heuristic do you generally go with?
People kind of come in two types: people who really work and those who will do stuff, but they would prefer not if given a choice. When I’m hiring, I’m looking for people who are workers! My interviews about this work ethic. What jobs did they have? Are they willing to get their hands dirty and do whatever it takes to get the job done? Most people have a hard time truly lying about what they do and don’t do. You see, the non-worker types believe they truly work hard, so they’ll tell you exactly what they do, which really isn’t that much. The real workers will tell you what they do as well, and it almost always blows you away with how much they do, but they don’t think it’s really that much. You almost never go wrong hiring a worker!
16. Who is the best co-worker or collaborator you’ve ever worked with?
Kris started Fistful of Talent and got me into blogging, writing, and speaking. We both have a skill of being able to produce high volumes of content, and we work together very well. He’s a great collaborator because he has this way of pushing back on certain things when he knows it could be better. He challenges me, but also himself, in a way that helps us come up with better stuff.
The best collaborators are when you find that person you don’t want to let down, you want to impress, but at the same time, they feel the same way about you. You can do great stuff when you are both trying to impress each other.
I still get impressed by Kris’s content every day.
17. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?
Anally on time! Okay, that’s my own bad quality! To me, if you are on time, you’re late. In my world, being on time means you show up 15 minutes early. I can’t tell you how many people in my life I drive crazy with my “timeliness.” So, I would love a colleague that beats me to the conference room, and we both stare at each other for fifteen minutes waiting for everyone else to show up!
18. When it comes to work and industry: what scares you most?
Not being able to pay my bills. I was raised by a single mom, and money was always tight. We were that family at the grocery store where the clerk would have us put things back because we didn’t have enough money to pay for what we put on the belt. I think once you live through those experiences, you never really lose that fear.
I’ve been successful enough in life where this truly isn’t a worry I should have, but it gets me up every morning! I still look at the day-old bakery goods at the grocery store for deals. I don’t own a fancy car. And I drive my wife crazy sometimes trying to find deals on stuff. So, like so many people, my biggest fear is being able to pay my normal weekly bills.
19. What’s the one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?
Being able to select the ‘best’ candidate for a position. There are too many variables at play for each selection. We all think we make the best selection, but it’s still mostly a 50/50 proposition, even with the best data and selection science. It’s not that we suck at selection, it’s that we can never truly comprehend the number of variables in play in every one of these decisions. We might all be better off by just flipping a coin.
20. What common wisdom in our industry needs to be debunked?
“We only hire Top Talent at our Organization!” No, you don’t! You actually hire the talent at that moment who is willing to accept the job you have, with your average pay and benefits, in the market you need that talent in. You aren’t hiring top talent! You don’t even know who the most talented people are in the skill sets and positions you are hiring for! Stop it, you sound stupid when you make statements like that.
21. Do you have a secret tip, tool, or trick that’s contributed to your success?
Surround yourself with people who are better than you at all the stuff you suck at! Sounds way easier that it really is because it means you have to have enough self-insight to understand what you suck at and accept it. But, if you surround yourself with those people who can make you better, there’s nothing that will stop you. Too often we surround ourselves with people who are just like us, and we all suck together.
22. Aside from your parents, name one person who has had an extraordinary impact on your career. What did they do and what did you learn form that person?
My wife has had the single biggest impact to my career. I’m not saying this to win points with her, she knows it. My wife is super smart and super organized. When we met, I was like most dudes, unorganized, just going to school, no real plan. I didn’t realize how her planning and organization would help when we met. Quite honestly, it’s mostly annoying and aggravating.
The reality is, without her, I would never had made it the level of success I have. She helps keeps me on a great path. She calms the noise in my world, by ensuring everything else outside of my profession is in order. She is a great partner in every sense of that word. Without her in my life, I know for a fact my career wouldn’t have been as successful as it is.
The tough part is she was always more accomplished person when we met and early in our relationship. She gave all of that up, to be a world-class mother and wife. I know we don’t regret her making that decision, we have an amazing life and amazing kids, all because of her, but she did sacrifice her own professional success. I’m grateful of that every day.
Thank you to Tim Sackett for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. HR Famous is the new podcast for HR